‘His skill in fence was very great’
Petty gossip and scandal, he would none of; he took everyone at his best and had a kindly word for many whom I unhesitatingly condemned. When once he gave his friendship, he was firm; the vain and mean, the misled and the hasty might say what they liked; of them Browning took no heed. If he were shown that greater profit and popularity would accrue to him by giving up a man who had acted fairly by him, he would say, Never mind them, I stick to —. His manliness was apparent in every word and act. As to the charm of his frank ways, are there not thousands in Europe and America who can testify to it? It had not the womanly delicacy of Ruskin’s early manner — how delightful that was! — but, as an instance of it, take this: this spring when I told him that in no place was he so abused as at the Browning Society, and that I in particular had called him all the bad names I could think of, he leant forward with a cheery smile on his face, gave me one of his frequent pats on the knee, and said, ‘Ah well, I don’t mind. I’m not afraid of you’ — as if he’d fight the lot of us, ‘one down, t’other come on’: how could one help loving him? It was a real pleasure to be with him, and hear his hearty ‘Goodbye, and mind it isn’t so long before you come again! There’s always lunch at one.’ Another characteristic was his wonderful tact, which long experience in Society had given him.